Premier League Preview and Prediction: Leicester City vs Chelsea

Competition: Premier League – Leicester City FC vs. Chelsea

Venue: King Power Stadium – Saturday, January 14 – 17:30 GMT (12:30 ET)

Match Odds: Leicester 9/2 – Draw 29/10 – Chelsea 8/13

Match Preview

Leicester welcome Chelsea to the King Power Stadium on Saturday evening in a game, a tie between two teams with reversed roles compared to last season.

This time last year Chelsea were loitering in mid-table, while Leicester were well underway to completing the seemingly impossible. The foxes are struggling to recapture their from from 2015/16 and are currently just six points above the relegation zone.

Claudio Ranieri will be hoping his side can pick up a positive result against his former employers, who have already been tipped to be crowned Premier League champions only halfway through the season.

Leicester’s last Premier League fixture ended 0-0 away at Boro, they look to have turned over a new leaf, having also progressed in the FA Cup with an impressive win away at Everton.

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Antonio Conte’s side bounced back well after their 13 game-winning streak was brought to an abrupt halt at the hands of Spurs in their last Premier League outing.

Chelsea responded well, having also progressed in the cup and now their attentions turn to reminding the chasing pack just how clinical they have been this season.

The Blues are only five points clear at the top and with some very tough fixtures coming up, there is much work to be done.

The Chelsea fans will be hoping their star players will be feeling fresh following a rest in their cup tie. They looked off the pace in their last fixture and an impressive display here will continue to strike fear into their competitors.

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Team News

Leicester City’s forward options are limited ahead of this tie. Islam Slimani and Riyad Mahrez are both at the African Cup of Nations, while there are doubts around the fitness of Jamie Vardy and Leonardo Ulloa. Daniel Amartey is also at AFCON, while Andy King could miss out through fitness.

Chelsea will be without captain John Terry following his dismissal in their FA Cup win last weekend, his appeal was unsuccessful and the ban was upheld. However, the former England captain would have most certainly returned to the bench had he been available for selection. Marcos Alonso is Chelsea’s only injury concern, he is a doubt.

Key Points

Leicester’s last five: L/D/L/W/D

Chelsea’s last five: W/W/W/W/L

Key Stat: Domination – Chelsea are unbeaten against Leicester in 11 of their last 12 meetings in all competitions.

Key Player: N’Golo Kante – This is a huge game for arguably the most important Premier League midfielder. It marks his return to the King Power since winning the league with Leicester last season. He will need to remain focused regardless of whatever reception he receives.

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Score Prediction

Leicester City 1-2 Chelsea – Leicester City to fall short here. They are missing a number of key players and face a Chelsea side who have been in scintillating form. Chelsea have conceded five goals in their last three games, their defence had only been breached twice in nine games previous to that run, so Leicester will feel they have a chance of finding the back of the net here.

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Premier League Preview and Prediction: Southampton vs Chelsea

Competition: Major League Soccer – Southampton vs. Chelsea

Venue: St Mary’s Stadium – Sunday, October 30 – 16:00 GMT (12:00 ET) 

Match Odds: Southampton 19/10 – Draw 12/5 – Chelsea 7/5

Match Preview

Southampton welcome Chelsea to St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday afternoon in a tie that has the makings of a classic, with both sides looking for three more points as they continue strong starts to the season.

The Saints are in a great run of form, unbeaten in five and are working their way up the Premier League table. Southampton come into this one having progressed in the League Cup in midweek. They drew their last league outing 1-1 away against City in what was an impressive display.

Claude Puel will be pleased with how has side are developing in the early stages of this season and will know they can cause any opponent trouble at home.

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Chelsea were knocked out of the League Cup midweek and will be looking to bounce back here. They demolished United 4-0 last weekend in what was easily their best performance of the season so far.

Antonio Conte is generally pleased with how his side have been playing in the league of late. He switched to 3-4-3 and has seen Chelsea win three on the bounce in the league since doing so.

The Blues are up to 4th, just one point off the top and back in familiar territory in stark comparison to last season. Chelsea need to ensure they pick up maximum points from their next three games before they face some other title contenders in back-to-back fixtures next month.

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Team News

Southampton are expected to be without Matt Target, Jay Rodriguez, Shane Long and Jeremy Pied for the visit of Chelsea here. Sofiane Boufal may keep his place in the side after scoring a fine goal in the League Cup against Sunderland on Wednesday.

Chelsea don’t have a huge injury list but are still expected to be without Cesc Fabregas, while Kurt Zouma, Branislav Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel are still unlikely to be named in the squad despite progression in their fitness.

Key Points

Southampton’s last five: W/W/D/W/D

Chelsea’s last five: L/L/W/W/W

Key Stat: Southampton are unbeaten in their last nine home Premier League games.

Key Player: N’Golo Kante – The Chelsea midfielder completely dominated the middle of the park against United last Sunday and continually moved the ball to his attacking teammates. If he plays like that again this weekend, Chelsea have a great chance of winning what is a tricky away fixture.

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Score Prediction

Southampton 1-1 Chelsea – St Mary’s is never an easy place to visit and Southampton will be feeling confident of getting another positive home result against a strong side. Chelsea’s momentum was rocked slightly in midweek and they will be eager to avoid defeat here.

Will this be Conte’s best Chelsea lineup this season?

Chelsea left it late again to take all three points at the weekend in a performance that showed they lacked creativity in the final third and weaknesses in defence. While Antonio Conte’s men have got six points from a possible six, they are yet to show any real cutting edge, but as we know, winning games in the style they have is exactly what potential champions do.

While their early form doesn’t suggest Chelsea will win the title this season, they are already grinding out results when needing to. If they can improve performances they will be in a great position to challenge for silverware this term.

It’s obvious there is still work to be done at Chelsea for them to improve. Conte has made it clear he wants another defender and rightly so, as there have been the same defensive issues troubling them in the early stages of this season that were apparent throughout the disappointing 2015/16 campaign.

Conte has been making game-changing substitutions that have without question won Chelsea both of their matches so far. So let’s have a look at their potential best starting lineup and how a formation change could be needed to improve their performances from here on out.

Potential starting XI via lineupbuilder.com

Potential starting XI via lineupbuilder.com

As we can see above, the 4-1-3-2 is a less common formation but something that has a lot of potential to work for Chelsea. Regardless of who has been in charge at the club, 4-2-3-1 has been the preferred Chelsea formation, but it has become predictable and is showing signs of weakness.

The 4-1-3-2 formation allows a completely different dynamic to the setup. While the apparent strength of attacking wingers – who both play high up the pitch and drop in for defensive play – is still a key theme, the option of two strikers will provide a headache for opposition defenders.

Forward play:

Michy Batshuayi has to be starting alongside Diego Costa. The two have played less than a half of football together this season and already appear to have a telepathic relationship brewing. Batshuayi’s knockdown to Costa allowed the Spaniard to net the winner in their opening game against West Ham and both strikers were on the scoresheet at the weekend, with the goals finally coming while they were both on the pitch.

Having a striker next to him affords Costa more room to manoeuvre, get in behind and go unnoticed as he is not up against both centre-backs at the same time.

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In the middle: 

Chelsea lacked creativity throughout their game against Watford at the weekend and it was only when Cesc Fabregas came on that they looked threatening. Fabregas creates so much room for his teammates both on and off the ball, as opponents know they cannot afford to give him space. As soon as the Spaniard gets on the ball he is looking for a defence-splitting pass or to bring a winger into play.

Having Fabregas come in for Matic also allows Kante to drop into the deeper anchoring role on his own, where he is at his best. Kante can then break up play and continually feed Fabregas with the ball rather than having to try and be a creator himself.

Service to the wingers and forwards was evidently weak in the game against Watford, while the partnership of Matic and Kante is excellent defensively, the pair offer little creativity going forward.

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At the back:

Chelsea still look lacklustre at the back. The positioning of their defenders was to blame for going behind to a screamer of a strike at the weekend, while an inability to clear the ball properly under-pressure in their first game saw their backline breached.

In an ideal starting lineup, Kurt Zouma would play for Chelsea but as we know, he is still a long way off playing. Zouma’s pace and strength make him a great option at right-back, a position where Branislav Ivanovic appears to be struggling.

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Playing this XI also leaves an incredibly strong bench to change things if they aren’t going well for Conte, although many would argue the likes of Oscar, Matic, Ivanovic, Pedro and Victor Moses should be getting a look in to start games.

Moses has made a great impact in both his appearances off the bench this season, while the likes of Matic, Pedro and Ivanovic have somewhat struggled to show their class in the early stages.

Playing a 4-1-3-2 formation would also be beneficial for Oscar, as although he may not start every game ahead of Fabregas he still has the ability to take up other positions such as on the wing or rotate throughout the season in the number ten role.

While we aren’t suggesting Conte will opt for this style of play it is something that could potentially work for Chelsea and make them less predictable going forward. It is going to be interesting to see if the Italian makes any further signings before the window closes and how they will continue to lineup in the coming weeks.

Should Chelsea opt for a different formation? Does Batshuayi need to be starting alongside Costa from now on?

Why Chelsea should be doing everything possible to sign Kante

It goes without saying Leicester’s N’golo Kante was one of the standout performers in the Premier League last season and it is unsurprising to see him being linked with a number of Europe’s elite clubs. Chelsea are rumoured to have begun negotiations to secure the Frenchman and Lewis Addley explores why they should be doing everything possible to get a deal done…

In the summer transfer window 13 years ago, Chelsea secured the signing of one Claude Makelele from Real Madrid for a fee of around £17 million. His success in the Premier League led to his position being referred to as the ‘Makelele role’ and many have drawn comparisons to his playing style since.

In the 2015/16 season, Leicester City’s N’golo Kante emerged as arguably the best holding midfielder in Europe and it seemed only a matter of time before some of Europe’s elite came calling for his services.

The Frenchman has received heaps of praise from pundits and fans alike. Makelele himself has tipped him for a move to a ‘big club’ and with all due respect to Leicester, it looks like that is going to happen.

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Kante has already turned down a £100,000-a-week improved contract from Leicester, arguably making his intentions to leave the club clear. Antonio Conte is hoping to bring in another holding midfielder to bolster his options at Chelsea. A hard-working player will be essential if his preferred 3-5-2 formation is to be successful in the Premier League.

Having already failed in attempts to sign AS Roma’s Radja Naaingolan, Kante appears to be at the top of Conte’s wish list.

So why should Chelsea be doing everything to get a deal done?

Competition:

Leicester City have already been offered £35m for Kante by Chinese club, Shanghai SIPG – £15 million higher than his buy-out clause. While money may not be the motivation for the player himself, nobody would blame Claudio Ranieri for cashing in at the highest amount possible. Although he will be hard pushed to find a replacement of equal quality to Kante.

The Frenchman is well in the shop window and clubs from across Europe have been monitoring his current situation at Leicester, the longer any potential deal takes to complete, the more competition Chelsea are likely to face to secure his services. Real Madrid are also watching the situation closely.

Consistency: 

The 25-year-old midfielder featured in 37 of 38 league games last season on his way to winning the title, barely putting a foot wrong and he even managed to pick up four assists and find the back of the net once.

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Better by comparison: 

While it has to be clear this is not suggesting Nemanja Matic is a worse player, Kante bettered the Chelsea man in a number of key areas last term.

Matic was just one of Chelsea’s key performances from their title winning side of 2014/15 who really appeared to struggle to reach the same heights last season. As the current first-choice holding midfielder at the club, his position could well come under threat with the potential arrival of Kante.

Kante vs Matic

Statistics provided by Squawka

 

 

 

 

As we can see Kante bettered Matic’s output in all of the areas highlighted above. However, Matic did manage more successful passes than the Frenchman, more forward passes and netted one more goal.

Age:

Kante is only 25, giving him the potential for at least seven years at the top level, barring any injuries. He would be an infectious player for up and coming talent to learn from and is far from his peak.

Given how well he embedded himself in the French squad for the European Championships, it appears he will thrive off of playing alongside some of the highest regarded players in Europe.

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If reports are to be believed Kante could become a Chelsea player in the very near future. He frustrated practically every opposition side in the Premier League last season and could play an integral role in Conte’s Chelsea revolution if he completes a move to West London.

Is Kante the holding midfielder Chelsea need? Should they be doing everything they can to sign him?

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Leicester City vs. Stoke City

Competition: Premier League – Leicester City vs. Stoke City

Venue: King Power Stadium, Date: Saturday 23 January K/O 15:00 GMT (10:00 ET)

Match Odds: Leicester City Evens Draw 12/5 Stoke City  11/4

Match Preview

Surprise title contenders Leicester City welcome Stoke City to the King Power Stadium on Saturday, looking to get back to the top of the Premier League table, while Stoke have European ambitions on their minds.

Claudio Ranieri’s troops have slipped up in recent weeks, with the latest setback a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham in their FA Cup replay on Wednesday.

One win in five has seen them wobble at top of the table, but that win did come against other surprise title contenders Tottenham last week, having now played Spurs three times in ten days.

Riyad Mahrez has missed crucial penalties against Aston Villa and Bournemouth in recent games, causing them to miss out on four points as they disappointingly drew both fixtures.

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Some will see this as their easiest match in coming weeks, with Liverpool heading to Leicester next, followed by trips to Manchester City and Arsenal after. Now is the real test of their title credentials.

Stoke are fighting for their own objectives. They sit in seventh place and are in the semifinal of the League Cup, while they also advanced comfortably into the fourth round of the FA Cup.

The Potters have been on a good run, with three wins in their last five Premier League matches.Their latest fixture saw them play out a hard earned draw with Arsenal at the Britannia.

Mark Hughes deserves massive credit for the job he has done at Stoke, with the flair on the wings and solid defensive setup helping the Potters to improve greatly.

Although away from home they struggle, with only four wins in twelve matches this season. They have only won back-to-back away matches once this season.

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With Jack Butland in goal they have a stubborn keeper who has kept five clean sheets on the road this season and he will hope for another here.

The reverse fixture saw Leicester draw 2-2 at the Britannia, having been 2-0 down but goals from Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy meant they travelled home with a well earned point. This looks like it could be full of more goals.

Team News

Leicester City are expected to recall N’Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez to the side after all three started Wednesday’s FA Cup game on the bench. Matty James could return to the bench after recovering from his serious ACL injury.

Stoke City look set to be without Geoff Cameron (ankle), while Xherdan Shaqiri is pushing to be fit after a hamstring injury has forced him to miss the last few matches.

Key Points

Leicester City’s last five: L/D/D/W/D

Stoke City’s last five: W/W/L/W/D

Key Stat: Leicester haven’t beaten Stoke at home since 2006.

Key Player: N’Golo Kante – The Frenchman has had a very impressive debut season in England following his summer switch from Caen. With vital tackles and his composure on the ball, he has been one of the league’s best midfielders this term. With Stoke’s endless energy, he will need to be switched on to get the Foxes back on top.

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Score Prediction

Leicester City 2-0 Stoke City – The Tinkerman will almost have a fully fit squad for the visit of Stoke, and so a crack of the whip on his team selection is likely, in order to maintain their focus on staying in the top four. Stoke offer so much going forward with the quality in their ranks but Leicester need this win before three very tough fixtures.